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Apologetic American: Living Abroad in the Age of Trump


Typical Berlin small talk brings with it an extra sense of dread for me, and likely every other U.S. citizen living in the city, when we are asked where we are from.

“So, magst du Trump?” my German teacher asks me on the first day of class after I tell him where I’m from. While I search my A2 level of German for the translation of “misogynistic bigot with small hands” the rest of the class sniggers in response.

In such an international city as Berlin, many of us are no strangers to the associations and sterotypes that come with our home-country. But for Americans, the stereotype isn’t exactly unfounded—Trump, is basically, the physical manifestation of everything awful about the U.S.A.. Donald Trump, the real estate mogul turned presidential candidate, is the epitome of the pugnacious and racist American the rest of the world has learned to believe is the norm.

Trump not only hogs the headlines and news shows in the U.S., but his toxic presence has invaded internationally, from Helskinki to Paris to Berlin. In a February edition of Der Speigel ,Trump’s scowling face appeared on the cover, along with the words: “Madness: America’s Agitator Donald Trump”. After Trump’s ridiculous proposal to ban Muslims from the U.S., members of the U.K. Parliament debated a petition to ban Trump from entering Britain. The French newspaper Liberation called Trump a nightmare turned reality.

Disgust is a word that comes to mind when describing the international reaction to a potential president Trump. In Berlin, Americans are likely to shudder at the thought of what is happening back in our home country, and most of us consider it a good reason to never return. Of course, the American population of Berlin has a tendency to look a lot more liberal and open-minded than those that remained in the U.S. In the recent Democrats Abroad primary, in a historic voter turnout, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders won by a landslide. After the U.K. and Canada, Americans in Germany and France were the largest voting population. The Republican party has no official oversees voting system, so it is hard to tell whether Trump is favored by conservative American ex-pats, but I am fairly willing to bet no. And while so many know Trump internationally for his ridiculous hairstyle and appalling statements, much less attention is given to his opposition, notably Bernie Sanders, a radically liberal candidate who is running on a campaign of economic equality, calling for free college education and a social welfare system that looks a lot more like Europe’s and a lot less apocalyptic than Trump’s.

To apologetic Americans, Berlin seems like the antithesis of what we left behind in the U.S. But there is we can do than just cringing when the topic of American politics is inevitably brought up. As unlikely ambassadors of a country all media headlines would suggest is quickly turning from bad to worse, Americans in Berlin can spread the message that no, we’re not all like that back home.

By Selene Ross

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